Tag Archive: Fighting to recover


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I don’t really know who Lamott is, or where hope becomes important in her story, but once upon a time I copied this out and popped it in a back pocket where it remained until I fished it out some months ago.

I don’t have too much to say, except that to me, hope is one hell of a risk. It seems to require me to swim against the tide of mental reasoning and learning; perhaps in different seas altogether.

I admit, I find it exhausting. I think that I find it easier to throw my hands up in the air and quit, than to hang on to the cliff edge with torn up fingernails.  Funny that Hope is so often thought to be light, so feathery and fragile, so beautiful, so pure.  Stark contrast then, that the hope in me is a ripped, time worn, tear stained,  piece of paper pulled out of my old jeans’ pocket.

Hope is a risk. It might fail me. It might demand too much, grow too big, get too brave. It might start to grow secretly, against my own will…

… but if I don’t have any, my life will always look the same. The world will always look the same. My body will always feel the same.

Hope is a harbinger of change. Without it, we stop swimming altogether. The only alternative to swimming against the tide is to stand in stagnant pools, or to drown.

I don’t intend to do either.

Re the quotation that I carried round so long;  I’m still here in hospital (I showed up). I’m eating (trying to do the right thing).  I’m waiting and watching and working.

I’m just hoping to see the sun rise as I fight the tide.

For whatever reason, I feel the need to preface this post with a declaration that I do not buy the Daily Mail. Finding it, all too often, a thinly veiled excuse to propound nationalistic views, I frequently have to remind readers that the world is not really that bad a place unless they believe all they read in this trussed up tabloid.

I was, however, drawn to the full page article about a long suffering mother, who, five years after her daughter’s tragic death, has made the decision to release the girl’s diaries. Diaries that record the tortured journey of Loredana Verta, a bright, talented sixteen year old, who was dead within three years. Heart attack.

Rightly or wrongly, some of  this young sufferer’s innermost thoughts and feelings are laid bare in newsprint for all to see.

The workiarticle-2713000-202CA0CA00000578-585_634x910ngs of this girl’s mind are utterly consumed by the illness. Her writing is littered with scribbled self loathing, capitalised screams of  “I HATE ME… I HATE MY BODY”.   Most teenagers feels like this at some point. Hormones, skin, peer pressure, perfection culture, fashion… It’s all there to taunt the aspiring, spot laden, hormone raging teen.

Except Loredana’s thoughts are all centred on weight loss and weight gain and wrongly perceived fat.

To my mind, what is more haunting than the poisonous self hatred, the desperation, the pleas to God and the cries for help, are the words of a grieving mother, who says,

“Lorry thought she could live with the condition – that as long as she was thin, she would be OK. She didn’t realise that anorexia is a deadly disease. It is a killer”.*

For long term sufferers, ‘old hands’, Anorexia can be so ingrained, so deeply habitual, that we forget that it is something UNnatural… an invasion. It becomes like Stockholm Syndrome… It’s is our natural fall back position.

It KILLS.

Let’s get real.

It is deadly.

We think it won’t ever happen to us, and yet, why wouldn’t it? It killed Loredana in just THREE years.

Of all psychiatric disorders, Anorexia is the biggest killer. TWENTY PERCENT of sufferers die prematurely.^

I hear my wake up call.

Can you hear yours?

 

* Emphasis is mine

^ Statistics according to B-EAT

One Direction...

It’s taken me a good few years of severe illness to reach a peaceful understanding that recovery is more of a direction than an actual destination.
Perhaps there is something disheartening in the idea that recovery is not an actual, secure, concrete ‘place’. I sometimes feel frustration… that I just want to ‘get there’. It’s hard to learn that there is no concrete place to stop when you are so weary from the journey you’ve already made. It takes strength, stamina and guts to pull yourself up, to brace yourself and carry on into 2014. I am taking a deep breath and, to borrow the words of a psalm in the bible, setting my’face like flint’, gritting my teeth and carrying on. My hope is that if you have been struggling with something for a while, you can do the same. Take small steps, one at a time, in the right direction.

I have just completed my third week of refeeding at the day treatment unit and it has been nothing short of agony, which is a tough thing to be honest about because I want this site to be about positive encouragement and support. I want it to be inspiring for those who are thinking about going for treatment, motivational for those who are sitting on the fence, unsure which way to drop.

However, I also want it to be realistic and honest. Just as I’m not a great advocate of polite, ‘home counties, garden party speak’, I’m not great at literary niceties. It is possible (on reflection) that I value honesty above all other virtue. In the words of wannabe surfboard – wielding  teens the world over, I have to ‘keep it real’.

Back to the concept of agony then.

To any ‘normal’ person (for the purposes of this post, let’s just assume that such a thing exists) the idea that sitting around and eating all day should be anything other than a pleasure, sounds ludicrous! If I offered most of my friends the chance to take a few weeks away from work to join me in treatment,  they would literally jump at the chance! I almost wish that I could offer it as a free gift on one of those LoveFilm ‘friends and family’ type cards for Christmas.

For an anorexic however, the relentless pattern of snacking and sitting and eating and talking, resembles the slow medieval torture of The Rack; the steady tearing of bones from sockets, muscles from tissue and flesh resembles the inner sensations of being torn apart. Sounds dramatic? Perhaps, but I fail to find metaphors which can adequately illustrate the pain of beginning recovery.  Admittedly, being severely underweight heightens the trauma of refeeding, physically as well as mentally, but it’s a pretty horrendous process wherever you are on the BMI scale.

What I think is an important point to emphasise at this stage though, is that despite the immense increase in my calorific intake, in three weeks, I have only gained point 5 of a kilo overall. That’s a pound (in old currency).

We are weighed twice a week on a Monday and Thursday  (an event so anxiety provoking I am woken by palpitations in the early hours of a Thursday morning).  The pattern for me has been a predictable gain on the Thursday and loss after a weekend of Anorexia V Relief at ‘Respite’. The harder you work at the eating, the greater the agony as the Anorexia rears its demonic form, screaming and contorted, afraid of losing even an inch of its grip.

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At this point, there is no comfort.

If Anorexia is being frozen to death, treatment is a hot water bottle that burns if you hold it close.

It flogs as it spares; it blinds as it darkens; it kills as it saves.

And just as the illness commands a dying body to keep dragging itself over upturned shards of glass, so recovery demands that the same body be dragged in the other direction.

Agony.

But

if you have to suffer it,

it may as well be suffering towards recovery.

Right?

But Lot was so afraid he couldn’t move. So the angels grabbed him by the hand, and they grabbed the hands of his wife and of his two daughters, and they led them out of the city. As soon as they were safely out of the city, one of the angels said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”  And then God rained fire onto the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Thick, black smoke filled the air like smoke from a fiery furnace. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.

But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

(Paraphrased Old Testament story – Taken from Genesis 19:25 ff )

Sometimes in life, you have to grit your teeth, set your face like flint and let the hot tears run cold down your cheeks.

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You have to put blinkers on and RUN, ignoring every twinge of agony and crashing through every brittle hurdle of despair.

Scream if you have to, but whatever you do… DON’T LOOK BACK.

Don’t look at what you were, where you’ve come from or how you felt.

Just keep running like nobody has ever run before.

There’s a point in recovery, be it recovery from an addiction or recovery from an Eating Disorder, when to look back is fatal. Just like Lot’s wife, to look at what you’ve left behind will destroy you.
In the case of Anorexia, to stop pushing through the pain barriers, to allow yourself a tiny backward glance, is to begin to slow down. Casting that quick over-the-shoulder peek, may not feel like it, but it’s going to make your feet like lead, your path like treacle. And all of a sudden, it’s got you. Again.

You were going through hell and you should have kept on going.

Why go through halfway through hell and turn back?
That’s what looking behind you will do.

Oil in my Lamp

“To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it ” 

said Mother Theresa.  And assuming that the lamp to which she refers isn’t a £6.99, stretch neck, mains powered Argos job, which relies on an E14 Edison Golf Ball Light Bulb (in Cool White), then it (frequently) occurs to me, that she’s right.

Joking aside, although an obvious metaphor, it’s one of those things which is much easier to know and dismiss, than to know and apply. Especially where recovery is concerned.

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To keep the will to recover alive and at the fore, is one of the things I find toughest. Today, for instance, although I am determined that my weight will not go down, I’m not really intent on making it go up. It’s what I call, ‘living the half life’.

To be in recovery, we can’t afford to just sit around waiting for ‘it’ to happen. We can’t afford to submit to lethargy, apathy, ambivalence. We have to keep fighting, keep the oil topped up. No room for our will to ‘glow’. Nope. It has to shine bright.  

It’s only when the will to recover burns fiercely, that we can really fight hard. 

As my will feels as though it’s barely glowing,  I will remember Mother Theresa’s words together with the words of a hymn from my childhood, which pray, “Give Me Oil in my Lamp, Keep me Burning’ and repeat them as mindfully as I can. 

Are you in?